Hunter worst region for off-stretcher time

1:3 staff:patient ratio needed to cut ED wait periods.

Emergency patients are more likely to be left on an ambulance stretcher for more than 30 minutes at the Hunter region’s three biggest hospitals – John Hunter, Maitland and the Calvary Mater – than elsewhere in the state.

Only 44% of those patients made it off a stretcher within the target time of 30 minutes in the last quarter of 2012, compared to the state average of 64%, according to the Bureau of Health Information’s Hospital Quarterly report. Maitland Hospital’s result of 43% tied with Hawkesbury District Health Service as the worst in the state.

The National Emergency Access Target for NSW requires 90% of patients arriving at hospital by ambulance to be transferred into the care of ED staff within 30 minutes.

The latest figures highlight the pressing need to establish a 1:3 minimum staffing ratio for emergency departments, said the NSWNMA’s delegate at Maitland Hospital, Jillian Thurlow.

“If someone comes in on an ambulance stretcher with chest pain and we have no bed available, ambulance officers are required to stay with that patient in the ambulance bay until a bed is available,” she said.

“When there are a number of ambulance crews waiting to offload patients they call in an ambulance release team, usually on overtime rates, to look after patients waiting for a hospital bed.

“A 1:3 ratio would allow ambulances to offload quicker so they can get back out on the road to attend to emergency calls.

“It would mean faster treatment for patients arriving by ambulance, faster response to calls for an ambulance and lower operating costs for the ambulance service.”